The Department of Homeland Security apparently has blocked employee access to a WND report of a scandal in the agency’s new Cyber Security Command.
The story by WND, the nation’s largest independent Internet news site, described how a former Clinton administration official who “lost” thousands of archived emails that were under subpoena — and more recently left the Department of Homeland Security under a cloud related to her qualifications — was hired for the Obama administration’s new elite team of computer technicians.
The report described how the administration in May quietly hired Laura Callahan for a sensitive post at the U.S. Cyber Command, a newly created agency set up to harden military networks as part of an effort to prevent a “cyberspace version of Pearl Harbor.”
The move raises doubts about the administration’s vetting process for sensitive security positions. In 2004, Callahan was forced to resign from Homeland Security after a congressional investigation revealed she committed résumé fraud and lied about her computer credentials.
Investigators found that Callahan paid a diploma mill thousands of dollars for her bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees in computer science. She back-dated the degrees, all obtained between 2000 and 2001, to appear as if she earned them in 1993, 1995 and 2000, respectively. She landed the job of deputy DHS chief information officer in 2003.
Previously, as a White House computer supervisor, Callahan threatened computer workers to keep quiet about an embarrassing server glitch that led to the loss of thousands of archived emails covered by federal subpoenas pertaining to multiple Clinton scandals.
A government computer specialist was alarmed, saying, “She’s a security risk. I don’t know how she got clearance.”
A CyberCom spokesman told WND Callahan could not be interviewed and did not want her “name in public.” Asked for Callahan’s title, he claimed such information was “personal.”
CyberCom, which began operations last year, is part of the U.S. Strategic Command located in Fort Meade, Md.
But a worker at the federal Department of Homeland Security, who contacted WND through a personal email, reported that on the very day the report appeared, the WND.com site was blocked from computers in the department.
“I am very certain that I can’t access it, and [blocking] has never happened before,” the worker told WND. “I generally take a look at WND every morning to begin the day.
“The guy I work with has been blocked as well,” the worker said.
Another DHS employee hours later contacted WND to provide confirmation.
“Just thought you might like to know that DHS has blocked WND. Can no longer access from work computer. CNN, Fox and CBN no problems,” he wrote.
Staff at the Department of Homeland Security media office, contacted by telephone for a comment, told WND to make the request by email, which was done. There was no response.
WND’s report described how the Defense Department revealed it recently suffered a massive cyberattack. It was in March when hackers working for a foreign government broke into a Pentagon contractor’s computer system and stole 24,000 files. Previous cyberattacks have been blamed on China or Russia.
A new Pentagon study stressed the need to fortify network firewalls against enemy hackers. Callahan will be part of that effort at CyberCom, which will lead day-to-day defense and protection of all Defense Department networks.
“She’s a dubious hire, to put it charitably,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a government watchdog in Washington that sued the Clinton White House to retrieve missing emails.
As WND was first to report, several Northrop Grumman contractors working on the White House computer system testified in early 2000 that Callahan (née Laura Crabtree) threatened to jail them if they talked about the “Project X” email scandal even to their spouses.
One technician, Robert Haas, said she warned him “there will be a jail cell with your name on it” if he breathed a word about the glitch to anybody outside their office.
Chip Sparks, a White House programmer, recounted a run-in he had with Callahan in 1997. After questioning a technical decision she made, he said she wrote him a threatening note.
“Please be advised I will not tolerate any further derogatory comments from you about my knowledge, qualifications and/or professional competence,” Callahan blasted Sparks in a March 3, 1997, email, a copy of which was obtained by WND.
WND has reported numerous times its site has been blocked, including some instances that were inadvertent.
The McAfee Internet security corporation promised a fix after it placed WND in the categories of “Blogs/Wiki” and “Controversial Opinion” in a database of websites, triggering a number of systems to deny users access.
The denial messages specifically mentioned the “blogs/wiki” and “controversial opinion” classifications McAfee had applied to WND in its “sites” office that reviews and categorizes Web operations for customers.
The description later was restored to that of a general news and opinion website.
The warning had said, “Your request to URL ‘http://www.wnd.com/’ has been blocked by the Webwasher URL Filter Database. The URL is listed under categories (Blogs/Wiki, Controversial Opinions), which are not allowed by your administrator at this time.”
A teacher who found WND.com blocked write to WND.
“I am an avid reader of your site,” he said. “I frequent it at least 2-3 times a day and read many of your commentaries on the site. I love Molotov Mitchell! He is my favorite.”
He said he then checked Moveon.org and found it was not blocked.
“Another fine example of shutting down any information resource that doesn’t agree with our current political administration,” he said.
Among the institutions in which access to WND was affected were Raytheon and Veterans Affairs hospitals.
A “Web Guard” option offered by T-Mobile on its cellular telephone service disconnected access for some readers to WND.com by mistakenly classifying it as “adult” material.
Another case arose in Minnesota when a reader told of getting a response of “inappropriate” when he tried to access WND through the Wi-Fi services at a Dunn Bros. coffee shop.
The coffee shop was using software from DansGuardian.org. Other questions were raised by WND readers over the work of one of the larger filtering companies, ContentWatch.com, which has a product called Net Nanny that has been cited by readers several times for blocking WND for having “hate and violence.”
That company has told WND it now “has made the necessary changes.”
Early in 2007, WND finally resolved a blocking situation involving the military provider that makes Internet services available to U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine bases worldwide.
The U.S. Navy launched an investigation into blocking of WND at WND’s request after the news site received a flood of emails from readers.
An undefined “security” issue between the Web-hosting location WND uses and the Navy computer later was resolved. A block by American Airlines also was lifted, as were blocks by several other filtering companies.
Besides U.S. and world news, WND features columnists such as Ann Coulter, Joseph Farah, Chuck Norris, Pat Boone and Judge Roy Moore.
WND was launched more than a decade ago by Joseph and Elizabeth Farah and for nearly 100 weeks in a row was listed as the No. 1 most popular website in the world by Global 100.
WND also has been consistently ranked by several major Internet ratings agencies as the “stickiest” news site on the Internet – meaning readers average more time on it than any other.